If you had asked me when I first started travelling, I would have told you that being a digital nomad was my dream. To hop around the world living in exotic destinations working at job that would allow me to make money from my laptop. It sounded so freeing and adventurous. I was envious of those who were doing it; they made life look so effortless. So glamorous. So exciting. After all, who wouldn’t want to travel the world and get paid for it?
Six years later, I’m writing this on a Monday morning sitting on my couch in worn sweatpants with my dog curled up beside me. I’m recently home from Egypt and I’m trying to get a jump start on blog posts before I leave again for Europe; a work trip that I’ve been planning since July. Being the holiday season, things are pretty quiet around here, but I still have lots to do. I’m finishing up creating content for a press trip to Jamaica and I need to follow up on a media breakfast I attended a couple days ago for the Florida Keys. I also have two articles I’d like to finish by the end of the day and I need to check in with a few editors for stories I’ve recently had accepted.
December marks eleven months since I decided to take the plunge and see if I could make it as a full time freelance writer. I imagined this would be a quiet year for me with more struggle than success and limited travel. Yet, in the past ten weeks I’ve been on over 20 flights through six countries and still have more to go before the year runs out. Twice I’ve had to turn down an incredible travel opportunity (damn near broke my heart) because I already had plans in place.
Over the course of 2017 I’ve contributed to travel guides, had my stories published in some amazing outlets, and I even have a couple of regular clients. I’m by no means rich or famous, and my hours are often longer than most people with a ‘normal’ job would ever have to work. But, I’ve finally done it; I have a location independent job that will let me work from anywhere in the world. Yet here I am, sitting on my parent’s couch in their Ottawa home. The same home that I grew up in.
See, the funny thing is that after travelling so much and for so long, I no longer want to be a digital nomad. Don’t get me wrong, I still love travel and want to do it as much as possible. But I also love being able to come home. I like the familiarity of my neighbourhood, having a dog to walk and play with, and going to sleep in my own bed. I enjoy being able to cook all of my meals in my kitchen and getting to share them with my family, or grabbing a coffee and seeing a movie with my friends. I appreciate having a quiet spot that I can recoup from jetlag or any miscellaneous travel-related illness I happen to pick up along the way. I love having a base that truly feels like home in a way that a rental, Airbnb, hotel room, or hostel dorm never will.
While my love for my family and home is a huge reason as to why the prospect of being a true digital nomad has no interest to me anymore, it’s not the only one. Fact is, over the past six years I have learned what kind of traveller I am, and my travel style really isn’t conducive for working full time on the road.
A couple of years ago a friend told me I suffer from FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. He was right. In 2013 I spent seven weeks travelling through fifteen countries through Europe. I loved every minute of it but I came home absolutely exhausted and so thankful that I religiously kept a daily travel journal because by the end, it was a blur. I like to think I’ve gotten better; now choosing to spend two to four weeks in a country rather than a couple of days, but I still like to hop around. Three to four days in a specific city is usually my max; by that point I get itchy feet and worry about all the other places that I’m missing out on.
Unsurprisingly, this does not bode well for actually working while I travel. Sure, I can sit down and write a couple of articles over the course of a week, but to actually maintain a regular work balance while travelling? It’s just not going to happen. Of course, now that I am location independent, I could stay longer in areas with no rush to leave (aside from visa limitations) but I know I’ll feel the same. After all, it was living abroad in Galway, Ireland that kick-started my travel obsession, and as much as I adore that Irish city, I still packed my bags and hopped on a plane at every opportunity I had. I don’t think it matters if I use Ottawa, Ireland, or Bali as a base. I know it will never be enough for me. If I try to work abroad, I’ll still be in the ‘travel’ mentality and wondering what else is out there that I’m not seeing because I have to work. Even if working does involve being surrounded by palm trees instead of snow drifts.
While I no longer fantasize about living out of a suitcase full-time, I’m still living my dream. I still travel lots; 2017 may have seemed slower, but by the time Christmas rolls around I’ll have spent nearly four months of the year travelling. I don’t have to request vacation; I can pack my bags and head to the airport at any moment. Plus, I still get to see my friends and family at home and snuggle with my dog. It may not be what I originally wanted, but having a location independent lifestyle still suits me. Will it be like this forever? Who knows. Maybe one day I will slow down. Or maybe I’ll get better at prioritizing work over adventures when I travel. But, at the end of the day, I’m really happy with my life right now, and that’s really all that matters, isn’t it?